September 27, 2023

Administrative assistant organizes annual event to help high schoolers succeed

Senior interviews day prepares them for the real world post graduation

Stacey Maxwell, administrative assistant to the principal at Newton High School, does not have a classroom to call her own, but she plays a pivotal role in helping seniors be prepared for post-grad life.

Stacey Maxwell has no classroom to call her own at Newton High School, but the administrative assistant to the principal does play a huge part in teaching the senior class one of the most important lessons they will ever learn: How to conduct themselves during a job interview.

From October onward during the regular school year is when Maxwell begins working on the one-day-only event. It takes the cooperation of many business owners and community leaders like Tanya Michener of Newton Development Corporation to take part in the senior mock interviews.

Maxwell has been on staff at the Newton Community School District since the 2016-2017 school year. For the past three years, she has taken over the reigns of organizing the mock interviews, which allows seniors to meet one-on-one with a person in their interested job field.

The mock interviews are held at the DMACC Newton Campus. Originally, the event was organized by members of Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa, who operated the Newton Career Connection Center until it dissolved sometime during the pandemic. But the high school still saw the value in the event.

“It is part of the ‘senior project,’ if you want to call it that. The first year the district held the mock interviews (in 2021), they were conducted virtually here at the high school. We teamed up with Newton Development Corporation. The two of us worked together calling all the contacts we could find that would Zoom in.”

Of course, the following year and this school year the interviews were held in-person. Every senior apart from mid-year graduates participate in the interviews. Not only do they have to take part in the interview, Maxwell says they must also write a cover letter and a resume. They’re also encouraged to dress the part.

For the 2022-2023 school year, 100 percent of participating seniors completed the interview process. Maxwell says 39 businesses/community members helped with the interviews this year. Almost 160 seniors participated in 40 different categories of jobs (one volunteer covered two careers).

“We had retirees, Newton alum, local businesses and surrounding businesses to come in to help us,” Maxwell says. “It’s awesome! They love to come in and help. Every year they’re like, ‘Keep me on the list for next year! We’d love to come and have some face-to-face time with the students.’”

Electricians, lawyers and doctors, among many others, regularly participate every year. Maxwell says it takes a lot of planning to get so many different professions represented for students, all of which had completed surveys months beforehand to tell faculty which job fields they are interested in.

“Some of these students have never had an interview, and they’re all going to have to do that at some point in their life,” she says. “They’re going to need to know how to write a cover letter, how to put together a resume. They do get feedback from the person who interviews them.”

Critiques help fine tune their resumes, cover letters and conduct from the interview. Maxwell says it is an important learning tool for seniors.

“It’s part of growing up,” she says. “Not all of the students are going to go straight from high school to college. A lot of them will enter into the work field and start their lives. They’re important in our community. And it is important that they go on and prosper and be a good person and just be prepared.”

Several students were nervous to take part in the interview process, but Maxwell says when they finished they felt so much better and realized it’s not so scary.

Admittedly, Maxwell loves this part of her job. Coordinating events is second nature, but the senior mock interviews is more than just another event. It allows Maxwell to step into the role of a teacher, albeit more indirectly. She sets the stage for the seniors to dive into a new experience head first.

When they emerge from their interviews with a confident smile, she knows it’s a job well done.

“It’s fun to go to the event and watch the kids walk in and meet the members of the community,” she says. “I don’t have that much face-to-face time with students until they’re seniors. So it’s nice to actually get to see the seniors and know who they are. I know their names but I don’t know their faces until this event.”

And then once again at graduation. That confident smile returning once more.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.